Creating A Classic Still Life by Wilson Bickford


Still life is one of my favorite subject matters. For me, it’s the challenge of capturing the realism of the objects involved. Quite often, I will utilize the Old Masters’ “indirect” approach of laying down a “grisaille” underpainting, then layering glazes and applying final highlights. There’s no question that this is a very effective method which yields very convincing results.
However, there are times when I take a more “direct” approach, as in the sample shown herein.
This painting was rendered “alla prima” ( basically wet-on-wet ) on a Black Acrylic Gesso primed canvas. I used no preliminary sketch, but rather laid out the objects and composition with a flat brush as I went. I simply roughed in the shapes and defined and refined them as the work progressed.
I knew in advance that I would want to glaze certain areas to bring out richer hues, so I added an Alkyd medium ( Liquin ) to my paints, which literally dried my canvas over-night. The next day, I was able to add glazes and brighten highlights to bring it to the finished degree you see here.
I used Jerry’s own SOHO OILS for this work. If you haven’t yet tried them, you should.
Remember that when rendering still life, it’s very important to show a broad range of values; lights, mid-tones and darks. Notice how I emphasized some really dark passages, but balanced it with some very light accents (and all the tones in between).
Also, note that by suggesting “reflections” of the fruit and crock, a table surface was only implied and not actually spelled out to the viewer. It wasn’t necessary because I was able to make the viewer “see” it and “sense” it, even though it’s minimal in the interpretation. Ah,… the power of suggestion!



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